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The FFC Bulletin 2014 V4 October

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Dr Charles Merfield, Head of the FFC, was featured on TVNZ’s One News talking about the mesh crop cover experiments the FFC is working on in conjunction with PotatoesNZFAR and Plant & Food Research to test mesh and chemical control of TPP in Canterbury, Fielding and Pukekohe, in on-farm field trials, which will allow detailed economic comparisons of mesh and agrichemical control and to show how mesh performs in commercial situations.  Preliminary results are expected around April.

Dr Merfield also appeared on One News talking about the ‘Bring back the butterflies’ event at the BHU.

The final frontier: Non-chemical, intrarow, weed control for annual crops with a focus on mini-ridgers

Non-chemical weeding machinery has made huge advances over the last couple of decades and the combination of modular parallelogram hoes and computer guidance interrow hoeing is now a straightforward field operation.  The final frontier is now intrarow weeding between the plants, and this is being aggressively pushed back with a combination of both high and low tech approaches… (more)

Tanalised post alternatives used in the national grape cultivar library-vineyard at the BHU

Tanalised pine posts are a mainstay of New Zealand agriculture, however, there is growing concern about leaching from posts into the soil and disposing of tanalised timber at the end of its life.  In addition, North American organic standards prohibit the use of tanalised posts.  The BHU Future Farming Centre hosts a vineyard where a number of alternative’s to tanalised posts are being demonstrated and are available for viewing… (more)

Spring has sprung and hopefully so have more white-tipped Californian thistles!

Thanks to the assistance of Bulletin readers, the FFC and partners have been working on isolating white tip disease from Californian thistle samples sent in.  However, we would like to have more samples, so if you see any white tipped Californian thistles, please check out the past article on identification and then drop Merf an email at or call 021 0231 8901.

OSCAR: A new cover crop and living mulch wiki (info source) from the European Union plus other cover crop resources

OSCAR is a collaborative European research project to develop more sustainable systems of conservation agriculture and increase the diversity of cover crops and living mulches.  It is collaborative effort between 20 partners from 9 European countries, Morocco, Brazil as well as the international research centre ICARDA.

The project aims to develop improved conservation tillage systems using cover crops (also know as green manures) used both as living and dead mulch, that:

  • increase the duration of soil coverage by plant canopies;
  • minimize the need for soil tillage and reduce tillage intensity;
  • increase the diversity of species within the plant canopy and the rotation;
  • reduce the need for fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides; and
  • in dry climates, conserve water and reduce need for irrigation.

A key part of the means to get the information out to farmers and growers is the wiki at and the OSCAR research project home page is at

In addition there is the venerable SARE’s “Managing cover crops profitably 2007” now in its 3rd edition as well as ATTRA’s (rather shorter) “Overview of Cover Crops and Green Manures” which combined with the new EU cover crop wiki builds an impressive cover crop resource covering a wide range of soils, climates and farming systems.

World Soil Day

Friday 5 December is the inaugural World Soil day, which launches the UN’s International Year of Soils (2015), the aim of which is to raise awareness at the international, regional and national levels about the fundamental role of soils for human life.  UN Secretary‑General Ban Ki‑moon has said that “Without healthy soils, life on Earth would be unsustainable.  Soils are the foundation of agriculture.  They provide vital ecosystem services and the basis for food, feed, fuel, fibre and medical products important for human well-being.”

The FFC has a particular focus on soil (e.g., see the FFC launch lecture) and it therefore enthusiastically welcomes the UN General Assemblies decision to focus on the utterly critical role of soil.

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